Aesop's fables are well known in the world of children's literature but finding fascinating facts about Aesop is a much more difficult task. While Aesop's work is legendary, there is a limited amount of information available about Aesop himself. Records from the period in which he lived are sketchy at best. Scholars must work to discern facts from a very limited collection of documents.
Life and Death
Aesop is believed to have been born around 600BC and to have died around 560BC. This seems consistent with the first mention of him in other ancient texts like Herodotus' History in 425BC. Other Greek writers also mentioned him, including Aristophanes, Xenophon, Plato, and Aristotle.
He (Maybe) Didn't Write His Fables
While most scholars seem to accept the idea there was a man named Aesop who wrote most of these fables, there is a body of scholars out there that suggests the fables commonly attributed to Aesop aren't actually his. As the Encyclopedia of Ancient History points out, Sumerian proverbs often had the same structure and story as Aesop's fables. Consequently, some scholars suggest he didn't actually write the proverbs. However, the world may never know for sure as Aesop is mentioned in several ancient texts as a storyteller.
He Was a Slave
Some records suggest Aesop was a Phrygian slave. He was apparently owned by two masters during his lifetime. He was sold to his second master who supposedly let him go because he was so intelligent and witty.
He Had Physical Deformities
Aesop's contemporaries describe him as having some physical deformities. According to text by Maximus Planudes, an ancient Byzantine scholar, Aesop's face "was of black hue," and he was an "ugly, deformed, dwarf." His bust, which resides with the art collection at the Villa Albani in Rome, suggests he suffered from some type of physical malformations. Other than the texts, there is nothing else to corroborate what he may have looked like.
He Had a Speech Impediment
While it's hard to know for sure, it's suggested in several older writings that perhaps Aesop stuttered. The possibility is interesting, especially given he told stories for a living. While the world may never know for sure, it has been a theory that perhaps Aesop invented the talking animal so he had a vehicle through which to speak freely.
He Was Murdered
It seems like perhaps, after earning his freedom from slavery, he upset a few people with his wit, stories, and opinions. The tale goes that he openly criticized the priests at Delphi and angered them so much so they murdered him. How he was murdered is unknown other than the fact he never returned home after going to Delphi.
Aesop Is an Inspiration
Aesop's fables have indirectly inspired a number of movies, television shows, plays, and modern books. It seems his life may not have been easy, but his gifts of wit and storytelling can inspire generations with both good literature and pithy morals.